While Marcos Ambrose started in pole position at the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen – having earned the position by shattering the Sprint Cup qualifier track record in his Ford Fusion on Saturday – it was Kyle Busch who took the checkered flag for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen on Sunday. Ambrose took the lead in 51 of the race’s first 62 laps, but following the caution flag on lap 60 resulting from teammate Aric Almirola’s crash, Ambrose dropped to 14th place with Busch taking the lead. Ambrose worked his way to twelfth position, but with six laps to go was bumped from behind by Max Papi and careened into a wall, demolishing any hope of claiming a third consecutive win at Watkins Glen.
Busch was in a good position for a win after the lap 60 caution, but still had to fight his way through a series of restarts in the race’s final fifteen laps to eventually take first place, followed closely by Brad Keselowski, with (in order) Martin Truex Jr, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger taking the top ten spots.
The Watkins Glen International race course, located near Watkins Glen, New York, has been hosting nearly every class of auto racing since 1948. Initially incorporating public roads, a dedicated circuit was built in 1956, with the track hosting the United States Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980. Although the track was the venue for a variety of events, it couldn’t survive financially without the Grand Prix and closed in 1981. In 1983, the track was bought by International Speedway Corporation, partnered with Corning, and renovated. In 1986, NASCAR Sprint Cup returned to Watkins Glen. Changes have been made to the track over the years, primarily for safety reasons, and Watkins Glen International remains one of the premier venues for a number of different types of auto racing.
In acknowledgement of its community and charitable achievements, Michigan International Speedway has been named “Track of the Year” by the NASCAR Foundation for the second consecutive year. One of the speedway’s projects named by the NASCAR Foundation is its “Track and Explore” program which, in conjunction with Adrian College, hosts field trips for youth in the area with the emphasis on nature and conservation. The fact that in 2012 the speedway donated up to $75,000 to local charities through its MIS Cares platform was also noted in the award citation. Other programs and events organized by the Michigan International Speedway include NASCAR Unites, Racing to Read, Extreme Bus Make Over, Charity Drive, Fish Your Bass Off and the Spirit of America blood donation drive.
Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis noted in an interview that all MIS employees and volunteers are passionate about giving back to the community and making it stronger. Stating that it’s an honor to be named the NASCAR Foundation’s Track of the Year, and that receiving it for two years is incredible, Curtis also emphasized that the speedway aims to continue being a leader in giving to the community. In addition to the programs mentioned, MIS Cares supports Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation and the Ryan Newman Foundation in their charitable efforts.
Since being founded in 2006, the NASCAR Foundation has contributed over $15 million to charitable causes, and through its annual Speediatrics has been instrumental in providing medical treatment for more than 24,000 children. More than 2,000 children have had their NASCAR Dreams fulfilled, while over 1,200 special-needs children have enjoyed a summer camp experience thanks to the Foundation. More than 12,000 NASCAR fans have been recruited into the Volunteer Network which facilitates educational opportunities for students, with the emphasis on science and engineering. Clearly, the NASCAR Foundation is fulfilling its mission to embody the compassion of the NASCAR Family and its commitment to serving communities.
In its ongoing efforts to “go green” NASCAR racing teams have reportedly committed to use a 15% ethanol blend (E15) in all three of its 2013 national racing series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck – being 50% more ethanol than the E10 blend available at US service stations. Moreover, NASCAR has set a goal of planting enough trees to offset carbon emissions produced by its race cars, noting that a single tree has the potential of absorbing a metric ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime which is roughly equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by a race car travelling 500 miles.
A number of NASCAR affiliates and partners are joining in the tree planting initiative. Ford has committed to planting one tree for every lap led by a Ford driver during April, with UPS joining forces with the Arbor Day Foundation in an effort to plant more than 8,000 trees as a celebration of this annual event. (National Arbor Day in the United States is observed on the last Friday in April each year, although individual states may have Arbor Day on different dates according to their optimal time for tree planting.) Through NASCAR’s Green website, fans are being encouraged to support the “NASCAR Green Clean Air Tree Planting Program™” with donations. A number of regions that have recently been hit by natural disasters have been identified as targets for the tree planting project, and those donating can choose which area they would like their donation to be used in.
The other NASCAR Green initiative is the “NASCAR Race to GREEN™” project designed to motivate fans, teams, tracks, drivers, and official NASCAR Partners to protect our environment. NASCAR is committed to environmental sustainability and recycling programs. At NASCAR tracks Coca-Cola and Coors Light provide bins for recycling plastic bottle and aluminum cans, while Safety-Kleen Systems recycles and re-refines all oil and lubricant used in racing, and Goodyear facilitates an effective tire recycling program. Other NASCAR Green partners include Creative Recycling, Freightliner, Green Earth Technologies, Green Plains Renewable Energy, Growth Energy, Miller Coors, NCGA, McLaren, New Holland Agriculture, POET, Sprint, Sunoco, Toyota, UPS, Novozymes, and 3M.
In a statement NASCAR CEO Brian France said that the NASCAR Green program in April is the “most ambitious and collective effort to date in reducing the sport’s impact on the environment”. Clearly, NASCAR Green is an initiative worth supporting.
For the past four decades members of the National Motorsports Press Association have been reporting hot-off-the-press motorsport stories through print, television, radio and the internet to millions of fans. When the NMPA started more than forty years ago, it consisted of a small group of journalists and broadcasters who focused mainly on NASCAR and stock car racing in the southern states of the USA. Today it has both national and international members and represents all forms of motorsports.
An interesting feature of the NMPA is its Hall of Fame in which notable figures in the motorsports industry are honored. In January 2013, three of NASCAR’s legends will be the latest inductees into the NMPA Hall of Fame – namely Ken Squier, Jim Hunter and Dr. Joseph Mattioli, with the latter two being honored posthumously. All three spent their careers contributing to the sport of auto racing, and the general consensus is that their induction into the NMPA Hall of Fame is well-deserved.
Jim Hunter started his journalistic career in South Carolina before moving into the field of public relations and later being appointed as track president at Darlington Raceway. Hunter fulfilled corporate roles with both NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation during his career, remaining an integral part of NASCAR for the rest of his life.
Dr. Jospeh Mattioli was the founder of the very popular Pocono Raceway which opened in 1971 and currently hosts both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, as well as IZOD IndyCar Series and ARCA Racing Series, among other events. The track is owned by Mattco Inc. which also owns the South Boston Speedway in Birginia. Pocono is also the home base of the Sports Car Club of America and some motorcycle clubs and racing schools. Known as “Doc” in the NASCAR community, Mattioli trained as a dentist at Temple University, but his passion lay in racing and he supported the sport whole-heartedly, which is he well remembered for.
Ken Squier started offering lap-by-lap commentary in the world of auto racing as a 14-year-old from the back of a logging truck at a stock car dirt race track in Vermont. His father, Lloyd Squier owned and operated the radio station WDEV based in his home town of Waterbury, Vermont. When his father passed away, Ken Squier took over ownership and running of the station, which he continues to do today. Squier was the co-founder of the Motor Racing Network in 1969 and filled the role of auto racing announcer for a number of years. He joined CBS Sports in 1972 and over the following years auto racing fans came to know his unique broadcasting style as he delivered lap-by-lap accounts of the action on the racetrack. Today Squier contributes to NASCAR coverage on the Speed Channel.
Matt Kenseth took first place in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, with Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch coming in at second and third place. But it was the twenty-something car pileup caused by Tony Stewart that took all the attention, with drivers blaming restrictor plate racing for the mayhem, and a number voicing their concerns regarding this NASCAR rule which results in cars bunching up and unable to get away from one another. As the field headed for the finish line, it was four lanes deep with no place for maneuverability when Stewart moved in front of Michael Waltrip, triggering the pileup.
Initially implemented for safety reasons, restrictor plates are used at superspeedways such as Talladega and Daytona, and more recently New Hampshire, to effectively slow cars down. Consisting of a square aluminum plate with four holes drilled into it, the size of which is set by NASCAR, a restrictor place is placed between the carburetor and the intake manifold with the aim of reducing the flow of fuel and air into the combustion chamber of the engine, thereby reducing horsepower and speed. With improved aerodynamics and technology of racecars over the past ten years or so, they have become capable of reaching speeds exceeding 225 mph (362 km/h), which experts believe is too dangerous for both drivers and spectators. When Bobby Allison crashed into a retaining fence at Pocono Raceway on 19 June 1988, he was traveling at a speed of 210 mph (338 km/h). The crash nearly killed him and endangered the welfare of hundreds of fans.
While traveling at slower speeds may be to increase safety, it also levels the playing field to an extent, causing all the cars in the field to be bunched up and leaving little space for top drivers to pull away from the pack, or to work their way out of the bunch. Having all the cars bunched together traveling at speeds of 190 mph around a track presents safety issues of its own, as one poor decision can cause multiple-car crashes – and this problem was resoundingly illustrated in Sunday’s race at Talladega.